Bosnia-Herzegovina won their first-ever FIFA World Cup match on Wednesday, defeating Iran 3-1 to bow out in style.
Edin Dzeko gave the Dragons the lead and Miralem Pjanic made it two in the second half. Reza Ghoochannejhad then notched the Persian Stars' first strike of the tournament late on, only for stand-in right-back Avdija Vrsajevic to restore the two-goal advantage immediately.
Formations & XIs
Bosnia-Herzegovina lined up in a slightly peculiar 4-1-3-2 formation, with Muhamed Besic anchoring on his own and five players free to move and attack higher up.
Iran played their usual 4-2-3-1 to begin with. Ashkan Dejagah started on the left, Masoud Shojaei down the right and Ehsan Hajsafi central.
They knew before the game began that they required a win to progress, but that didn't stop Carlos Queiroz starting with the same stubborn tactics while the game was in its infancy.
Ehsan Hajsafi played as a very defensive No. 10, hounding out the ball and chasing BIH ball-players. Dejagah and Shojaei both tracked back in the wide areas and the low-block was setup as soon and as often as possible.
With the Dragons lacking natural width in their unorthodox formation, getting around/behind Iran's deep lines proved exceptionally difficult.
Initially, it seemed as though this game would go the way of the previous two: slow, frustrating and low on goals.
Straight into Edin Dzeko
Unable to work the ball through tight spaces, Muhamed Besic quickly realised an early ball into Edin Dzeko from the back could allow BIH in behind the formidable Andranik Teymourian and Co.
He began picking it up off his centre-backs in the halfway line and chipping it through to his big striker, safe in the knowledge that Dzeko could control it, turn and fashion a chance before everyone could drop back.
After two successful attempts in five minutes Iran began to creep forward and attempt to clamp Besic higher up, removing the long-ball threat, but this only served to open up spaces between the lines.
Dzeko slipped in behind Teymourian, collected a pass and smashed a magnificent shot into the bottom corner from distance. Luring them forward then dropping into the space left had worked.
Iran, in need of two goals now, could no longer allow the game to be played in front of them without the ball. They had just 26 percent of the play by half-time, per WhoScored.com, and needed to up the ante.
Queiroz switched to 4-4-2—his first formation change of the tournament—and played Dejagah up from alongside Reza Ghoochannejhad. Shojaei was removed at half-time due to fitness concerns, so Khosro Heydari replaced him on the right wing.
They began playing more direct, expansive football; rather than lumping it into the channels to start attacks they'd work it out more carefully.
That led directly to the second goal, as Jalal Hosseini gave it away in his own third and Miralem Pjanic punished him.
Iran finally got their goal in the 82nd minute: Ghoochannejhad tapping home after BIH failed to clear their lines from a set-piece.
Queiroz's campaign will be viewed as a wild success despite finishing bottom of Group F, where as Safet Susic of the Dragons may end up resigning or being forced out.
For Bosnia-Herzegovina, success beckons provided the right coach is selected to get the best out of this talented side. For Iran, it's a case of obvious limitations: poor domestic play, poor fitness and only recently upgraded facilities will hinder progress for years.